Fog & Sun | Fair Images | Candidates Forum | Fence Vandalized | Warren Giacomini | Navarro Crabbing | Textile Bazaar | Plowshares Fundraiser | Mask Advisory | Greenwood Incline | Health Orders | Mural Update | Bodyworker Available | Flower Dash | Ed Notes | Fair Patrol | Home Insurance | Yesterday's Catch | Zodiac Killer | Talking Pets | Look Around | Thomas Tiller | Ukraine | Hairy Ape | Wartime Calamities | Cold Blood | Tankie Talk | Precarious Situation | New Boyfriend | World Ends | Sally Schmitt
A TALE OF TWO REGIMES as a strong but shallow marine inversion continues to enhance areas of dense fog along the coast each night while inland areas experience a very nice early fall weather pattern. (NWS)
MENDOCINO COUNTY FAIR, 2022
HEALTH DISTRICT CANDIDATES NIGHT VIDEO
BOONVILLE PARK FENCE VANDALIZED
Elizabeth Jensen writes:
Super bummed to see our temporary fencing torn down and our gate post crashed into. I have more temp fencing to hang up but would sincerely appreciate our community working together to protect our community spaces. If you see something, please speak up. This temporary fencing is there for a reason and we’d like it to last until our permanent fencing solution is available.
If you’d like to help repair our fenceline or have a permanent fencing solution you can offer our park in the short term, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any resources you have available. It Takes A Village.
PS. T-Posts + Fenceline + Zipties all loaded up! Join me tomorrow TUESDAY (9/27) 2:30-4:30pm to help replace torn fenceline and add final fenceline to north end. Bring your kiddos and I’ll have a frisbee and TBall bat and balls if helpful to keep them busy while we work!
WARREN EDWARD GIACOMINI — September 2, 1951- September 18, 2022
Warren passed away suddenly at his home in Point Arena, CA. Warren lived a full life in so many ways; he served as a firefighter for 45 years, was a wonderful father, husband and friend. If you knew Warren, you knew he was a giver and would drop everything to give a helping hand. Everyone he met he was instantly friends with. He was loyal and self-less. He loved any outdoor activities, Sunday football, and most of all spending time with friends and family.
He was born in Fort Bragg, California to Mildred Lucille and Lester Dominic Giacomini. He grew up with his two brothers, Lester and Michael Giacomini in Point Arena California.
Warren graduated from Point Arena High School in 1969. He then went on to study at Santa Rosa Junior college for one year, which then led him to study Fire Science at Butte College. During that same time, he joined the CDF family as a seasonal firefighter in 1969.
After many years of being a Seasonal Firefighter he made the next step to become a Fire Apparatus Engineer for the California Department of Forestry in 1978. In 1982 he became an instructor for the County Firefighters Academy, which he continued throughout his career. In 1984 he was elected as Rank and File Officer for the County Chapter. Warren then made a great leap in 1986 and became a Lt Fire Captain at Howard Forest Helitack Base. He then reached retirement in 2005 with 31.5 years of service with Calfire. After retirement he joined the Annuitant of Cal Fire with the National Guard in Air Operations to present.
During Warren's spare time he enjoyed abalone diving, mushroom foraging, hunting, working on the ranch, running his dogs and watching sports. He enjoyed family time, especially these last years with his three grandchildren.
Warren was survived by his beloved wife Lisa, his brothers, Lester Giacomini, Michael (Lauren Giacomini); son Scott Giacomini (Patricia Giacomini); daughter Julee Wheeler (Brandon Wheeler); son Jeffrey Giacomini (Mona Giacomini); nieces Caterina D' Adamo (Pablo D' Adamo), Jenna Springer (Jared Springer), Britt Giacomini, and Nina Giacomini; grandchildren Danica Wheeler, Tristan Giacomini, and Sophia Giacomini, numerous great nieces and nephews, and two dogs.
Services will be held on October 1st, 2022 at eleven o'clock in the morning at Carl Purdy Hall at Ukiah Fairgrounds. Warren will be buried in Point Arena, CA in a private ceremony.
Arrangements are under the direction of Chapel by the Sea.
PACIFIC TEXTILE ARTS FAIR
A week from Saturday, October 8, 2022, the best fiber fair and textile bazaar will be at the Pacific Textile Arts campus located at 450 Alger St (East end of Laurel Street Fort Bragg - look right and spot the painted quilt on the side of the building).
New fiber works, unique handmade clothing, gently used ethnic textiles, fabrics, yarns, books, equipment and textile rummage. Jackie Wollenberg will again have her fabulous collection of stuff. There will be an especially fine selection of beads.
This is PTArts major fund raising effort and we are glad to be back now that covid restrictions have lifted. We do ask that you mask when inside ... but much of the stuff will be outside.
Come support your local textile non-profit on the 8th.
Ft B Lady <firstname.lastname@example.org>
MASK ADVISORY from Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren
We continue to progress in this COVID-19 pandemic and most California counties are now in the low CDC Community Risk Level. Therefore, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) feels it is safe to move from a universal indoor mask order to an advisory for individuals and communities to decide what precautions are appropriate. Orders for universal masking in public settings including schools, childcare and on public transportation have already been replaced by “strong recommendations.” Mendocino County is currently at a Low Community Level, which means:
- CDPH has now ended the “Strong Recommendation” for all to mask in most indoor settings as of September 23, 2022
- Universal indoor masking will CONTINUE in healthcare settings (Acute Care General Hospitals, Skilled Nursing Facilities, Long Term Care Facilities, and outpatient health care facilities (for example, clinics).
- New recommendations consist of advice on how best to protect yourself and others, depending on the evidence-based risk in each community and for each individual.
- a. In Communities at a LOW CDC Community Risk Level, indoor masking is optional. More vulnerable people should still consider wearing a high-quality mask (N95, KN95 and KN94) in crowded indoor areas.
- b. In Communities at a MEDIUM CDC Community Risk Level, indoor masking should be considered More vulnerable people should consider wearing a high-quality mask (N95, KN95 and KN94) in crowded indoor areas.
- c. In Communities with HIGH CDC Risk Level indoor masking is recommended.
- d. If you have a household or social contact who is vulnerable, wearing a mask isrecommended when with them
- e. No one should be prevented from wearing a mask to protect themselves.
- Special cases:
a. In Correctional Facilities, shelters for homeless and emergency shelters for excessive heat, cooling, fire and air pollution the above recommendations do apply in NON-CLINICAL areas as long as the community is in a LOW CDC community level and there have been no outbreaks (3 epidemiologically linked cases in 14 days). If there has been an outbreak either the entire facility must follow universal masking or universal masking may be limited to units that are separate and closed and do not allow mixing of residents or staff with the general population. When the community level is medium or high, then everyone (residents, staff and visitors) in the whole facility should wear a high quality (N95, N94 or KN95) mask until the outbreak has ended (14 days have passed with regular testing and no positives).
b. In Correctional Facilities with integrated Hospital or Skilled Nursing Facility, staff and inmates should continue to mask. Where there is a small separate area of the correctional facility associated with medical care, and in isolation and quarantine areas, masks should be worn by all inmates, visitors and staff.
c. People who have been exposed or diagnosed with COVID but released before 10 days is finished, should complete their 10 days of quarantine or isolation wearing a high quality mask.
d. Employees who are subject to Cal OSHA ETS or ATD requirements must follow Cal OSHO regulations.
e. In K-12 schools, students and staff are subject to the CDPH guidelines for the general public.
Note: there is no distinction made based upon vaccine status. Though vaccinated and boosted individuals suffer a fraction of the total number of hospitalizations and deaths that affect unvaccinated people.
NEW CDPH ORDERS ADVISORY from Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren
As the acute phase of the COVID pandemic hit our communities, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), followed by our Mendocino County Health Department, issued many orders meant to control the spread of the virus. These included closing businesses and schools, mandatory masking, and, for some, mandatory testing and vaccines. These orders were based on the best scientific evidence to protect our communities from loss of life and to protect our health care facilities from being too overwhelmed to care for those suffering from accidents and other diseases. Public Health orders that people had never seen in their lifetime were needed at that time to avert disaster.
We are now moving past that acute phase and although there is still a pandemic taking hundreds of lives each day in California, we have progressed to a point when Public Health can change our response to this threat. Instead of orders for everyone to rely on, it is better for us as a community to understand the threats and evidence-based responses, and act responsibly with changing circumstances. We have learned a great deal from living with COVID for over 2 years and we have developed a strong immunity due to vaccinations, boosters, and infections.
Consequently, CDPH has rescinded several orders. On September 17, 2022 required routine COVID testing for unvaccinated, partly vaccinated, and unboosted individuals ended in many contexts (except where specifically required by Federal requirements):
1) Health Care Workers in General and Psychiatric Hospitals, Intermediate Care, Adult Day Care Centers, Pediatric Day Health and Respite Centers, Ambulatory Surgery Centers, Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospitals, Residential Substance Use and Mental Health Treatment Facilities, Dialysis centers, Hospice facilities;
2) Adult Care Facilities and Direct Care Workers including all in-home health aids, IHSS, Hospice and Regional Center employees;
3) Workers in Shelters
4) School employees
5) Correctional Facilities
6) Additionally, visitors in health care facilities including Acute Hospitals, Skilled Nursing Facilities and Long-Term Care Settings will no longer require proof of recent negative covid test.
a) Skilled Nursing Facility employees must still test, based on Federal requirements of CMS
b) Facilities should maintain testing capacity to be able to ramp up testing if there is an outbreak or if conditions change in the future; and
c) Requirements for vaccines, masking, Isolating and quarantining are not changed at this time. Employers are still required to track and keep workers’ vaccine and exemption records.
d) Updates from CDC regarding timing of required vaccines and boosters should be followed.
The best place to get more information about change in State Public Health Orders is the CDPH website. You can also get in touch with the Public Health Call Center with any questions at 707-472-2759.
LAUREN SINNOTT: The portrait of Toveri Tupa is (mostly) complete!
This building is an architectural star in my mural about the Finnish immigrants to Fort Bragg. In 1914, members of the local Finnish branch of the Socialist Party of America built this giant as a venue for Finnish drama, music, talks, and parties such as the progressive New Years Eve Ball. During WWII, it became the International Workers Order, Redwood Lodge No. 3893, and in 1946, the Fort Bragg Labor Temple for trade unions. In 1960, the building became home to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, dedicated to the arts and “the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills, and by promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope.”
Now offering House Calls for Bodywork! Traveling on the Coast from Albion to Inglenook. I work with people who have pain, and those who wish to maintain an open and fluid body that moves freely. I use various bodywork modalities to address your body holistically.
My clients report such things as being able to go back to work, move, dance and live in a healthy way inside their body, pain-free. Others mentioned an alignment of the mind and body after their sessions. And they often comment that they’ve not experienced bodywork quite like I do, and are happy to have found me.
I am punctual with my sessions and work in a clean and clear space. Call or email me to come experience what I do. I’ll need approx. 10 x10 ft2 space to work in for house calls. I add $20 fee for travel.
Kurt Baker (707) 489-6892 Caspar, CA <email@example.com>
TERRY RYDER-SITES WRITES:
Special shout out to Vicky Johnson who dropped everything she was doing at a moment’s notice to drive Terry Sites to Trader Joe’s in Santa Rosa for a truckload flowers (when all Terry’s cars were down) and then back to the fairgrounds where a crew of ten transformed them into more than twenty beautiful arrangements.
Finally, thanks to Kathleen McKenna who posted requests for heroic flower dash in Valley Hub for Terry. Vicky’s daughter-in-law Cece saw it there and the rest us history.
SAN FRANCISCO REAL ESTATE MOGUL Hamid Moghadam wrote this letter to SF officials after he was mugged in front of his Pacific Heights home.
I am writing you today as, I am sure, only the latest San Francisco citizen and business owner to ask for your immediate attention and action around crime in our city.
Sunday evening, I was held up at gunpoint and robbed outside my home in Pacific Heights. I recognize we live in an urban environment, but the level of crime, including violent behavior, has become absolutely unacceptable. Obviously, the majority of voters feel this way, which is why they voted to recall our district attorney earlier this month.
I run one of the highest market cap companies in the city, which I founded here forty years ago. Over the years, I have invested in this city and recruited talent to move here to work in our global headquarters at Pier 1. Ten years ago, we acquired a larger company that was headquartered in Denver, but I insisted we keep our headquarters in San Francisco.
Today, I am not sure I would make the same decision. It is now difficult for me to tell potential candidates that they should move to San Francisco. We pay some of the highest taxes, local and state, in the nation yet we have no sense of security. Protecting public safety should be the government’s top priority – that is the foundation to a successful city. Only in a community where people feel that they and their families are safe will jobs and culture flourish. I am deeply concerned that our city may be so far down the path toward decline that we may never recover – or at least not for a long, long time.
I am an entrepreneur and a problem solver. I would like to help you. I don’t believe that money is the problem. Earlier this year, the Chronicle reported that the City has only spent about a quarter of the Prop. C funds it has available, yet we continue to have a substantive homeless problem, which is not the cause, of course, but contributes to the crime issue.
We need a change in how criminals see our city. Do they see a city where we look the other way when crime rates rise, and law-abiding citizens don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods? Or do we want a city that is safe because we enforce the laws on the books and put public safety over political correctness?
I was frustrated by my long wait when I called into 911 to report the crime. I do want to call out Officers Gaetano Acerra and Kevin Lynch, who responded to my call and were exemplary in their handling of the situation. Their superiors should know that these two officers represented the Department and the City in the best way possible and gave me the help and information a victim of crime needs.
Never in my life have I ever had this kind of life-threatening experience. It is simply unacceptable for any resident of our city to experience something like this. We must make a change now.
THIS MAN'S VERY REAL EXPERIENCE can serve as a metaphor for the looming return of Trump or, worse, because he's younger and smarter, Desantis. Those of us fortunate to live in serene neighborhoods where violent crime is rare-to-non existent, tend, I think, to not understand that to millions of Americans violence or the threat of it is an immediate daily concern.
Nothing worse than feeling physically threatened all the time, and the political response to that feeling is presently spelled Republican. They promise they'll crack down. “We'll cut taxes, launch a War On Drugs, build new jails, and blah blah blah.” Ask a Democrat about crime and you get an unending load of, “Well, you see, it's like this.... We'll defund the police and use the money saved for drug rehab and buy better tents for the homeless and blah blah blah.” To me, an old man way past his pull date, the quality of the leadership — clowns and hustlers — translates as, “You're on your own, my fellow Americans.”
AV AS SURVIVAL CENTER as the world outside implodes? We meet all the Doomer specs — lightly populated, lots of skilled people, plenty of small farmers, most of us, even the hermits like the guy up in Deer Meadows, closely affiliated with reliable friends. There's more and more of this kind of fatalistic talk, not only among Doomers but among millions of people who keep abreast of current events.
DOOMERS always make collapse seem sudden and apocalyptic, but it's more a matter of slo-mo decline via phenomena like inflation, people unable to feed and shelter themselves, widespread disorder, random violence, hard drugs, fascisti mobilizing everywhere. So your world has collapsed, you get yourself to Boonville where you present yourself at a local farm. “I'm a survivor of San Francisco. You'll take me in and feed me, right?” What are your skills? “I don't have any.” Can you weed, use a shovel and hoe? “I've got chronic back trouble.” The farmer reaches for his shotgun. “Sorry, you'll have to move on.”
I REMEMBER ASKING a criminal how he was preparing for the millenial collapse of midnight, 2000. (The hysterics were stockpiling toilet paper and rice. There were a couple of months of worried talk on KZYX.) The criminal, not worried in the least, said, “I'm getting an extra box of shotgun shells.”
CHUCK DUNBAR: “Home Insurance That Covers Fire Damage—Seeking Info. My wife and I got a letter this week from our home insurance company-Nationwide—that our policy (17 years coverage with no claims) will be cancelled as of December due to wildfire risk. We live a mile from the ocean and about 2 miles south of Fort Bragg on the edge of the woods. So we are seeking another company to get this kind of coverage. We know there is a CA State program as a last resort, but it is far from ideal and pretty expensive. Anyone have any info on other companies that will provide such coverage to new policy holder? Thanks much for any info.” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CATCH OF THE DAY, September 26, 2022
JAMES BISHOP JR., Willits. Grossly negligent discharge of firearm.
JONATHAN HENDERSON, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, failure to appear, resisting.
KURTIS SMALL, Fort Bragg. Forgery.
HAS THE ZODIAC KILLER MYSTERY BEEN SOLVED (AGAIN)?
For more than 50 years, his identity has remained a maddening riddle. But now an L.A. novelist-turned-amateur sleuth may have finally cracked the case, revealing who was behind some of the most notorious serial slayings in California history
by Aaron Gell
The Hawaiian rainforest where Gloria Doerr has lived since 2017 is a sort of magnet, she says, for people who are running away from something. But even there, in the shadow of an active volcano, sometimes things catch up with you.
For Doerr, 70, it happened this past April. She was spending a tranquil afternoon at home when she learned that her late father, Paul Alfred Doerr, had been linked to one of the most notorious murder sprees of the twentieth century. Her son had stumbled on a podcast interview with Paul’s accuser, Jarett Kobek. An internationally best-selling novelist based in Los Angeles, Kobek had written a whole book, How to Find Zodiac, about how her Dad might just have been the maniac who more than fifty years earlier had terrorized the Bay Area with a string of cold-blooded and seemingly random killings.
By the time she’d finished listening to the podcast, Doerr, a retired real estate agent, was in shock. If this writer had only bothered to pick up the phone and call her before lodging his accusation, she would happily have told him that her father, who died of a heart attack in 2007, while far from perfect, to put it mildly, could be a charming, quirky, and voraciously curious man—a member of Mensa and an early proponent of organic foods.
In the following days, Gloria mentioned the situation to a few close friends, who thought she might have a libel case. She even reached out to an attorney. Though she was reluctant to pay $17.95 for the book, a friend ordered her a copy.
Paul Doerr is hardly the only suspect in the case—far from it. Among the rogue’s gallery of other presumptive Zodiacs are a house painter, a former schoolteacher, a sports car dealer, a theater operator, and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. “There are probably 50 or 100 suspects named every year,” sighs Richard Grinell, the former postman who runs the website Zodiac Ciphers and has been following the case for a decade. In October, a self-described “national task force of seasoned investigators” called the Case Breakers pointed to a brand new Zodiac suspect. Their theory was quickly debunked, but not before Fox News picked up the story, leading to hundreds of credulous media reports.
Gloria’s father, in other words, was in good company.
The killer, who is linked to a series of late-1960s attacks in the Bay Area, employed a shifting MO: Often he shot his victims, but on one especially macabre occasion, clad in an executioner’s hood, he tied them up and used a knife. Though he mostly attacked young couples around Vallejo, he also murdered a cab driver in San Francisco. Officially, he is believed to have killed just five and severely injured two, but his modest body count has been far outstripped by his well-tended mystique, bolstered by a sinister handle and a practice of firing off letters to the media and other authorities, often including mysterious ciphers and signed with a crosshairs logo.
Perhaps his greatest cultural contribution, if one can call it that, is having popularized a tone of smug superiority that attention-hungry outcasts, both fictional and real—from Hannibal Lecter and the Riddler to the aforementioned Ted Kaczynski and a substantial subset of 4Chan dwellers—have sought to emulate ever since. Meanwhile, his cryptic puzzles brought a seductive element of interactivity to crime-solving (a married couple decoded his first cipher over breakfast in 1969) and prefigured the citizen-sleuth movement along with its twisted progeny, 9/11 trutherism and QAnon. That might explain why his modest murder spree managed to inspire so much media coverage, including documentaries, a David Fincher film, a bottomless podcast playlist, an array of websites and forums, and enough paperbacks to stock a small, very grisly library.
And now, a new book had been added to the shelf, and Gloria’s father was the main character.
* * *
Bald-headed with a sprinkling of gray facial hair, Jarett Kobek, 43, is best known for his acerbic 2016 novel, I Hate the Internet. But he has dabbled in research-heavy crime stories: subjects of his dozen books include 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, murdered Florida rapper XXXTentacion, and homicidal “club kid” Michael Alig.
He co-founded his publishing company, We Hear You Like Books, in 2015, after I Hate the Internet failed to land a deal. The book went on to earn a rave in the New York Times, sell more than 100,000 copies, and spawn a dozen translations. “I have seized the means of production,” Kobek says now. “I can just fucking do anything I want. Like, if you want to publish a gay-porn novel with a giant golden cock on the cover”—a reference to William E. Jones’s I’m Open to Anything—“who’s gonna stop you?”
Kobek stumbled on Gloria’s father by accident. Initially, his goal was to write about misinformation and conspiracy theories, about how speculation clots into history. But he didn’t want to write about the “plandemic” or crisis actors or, least of all, Donald Trump.
Instead, he imagined that with 50 years of hindsight, a look at the misbegotten hunt for Zodiac—how professional detectives and armchair sleuths alike had fallen victim, time and again, to a kind of mass delusion, settling on one suspect after another based on often threadbare coincidences—would help explain just how we got here.
He began by studying the turbulent period in Golden State history during which Zodiac operated, an era in which seemingly random, inexplicable killings were becoming terrifyingly commonplace—stoking the darkest fears of an anxious populace already reeling from an alarming deterioration of the social fabric.
Kobek could relate. In the spring of 2021, outside the Los Feliz one-bedroom he shared with his cat, Ulysses, infection hung in the air like smog. A trip to the grocery store felt like a baptism in a viral plunge pool. As he strolled along Hollywood Boulevard, past Barndall Park and Jumbo’s Clown Room, thinking through the makings of his book, Kobek kept his own running tally of bodies–covid victims being wheeled out on gurneys as well as unhoused people left to die on the streets.
As he studied Zodiac’s cryptic letters, Kobek brought a writerly attention to bear. He zeroed in on the killer’s habit of quoting forgotten bits of cultural ephemera (the well-known call-outs to The Mikado and to the 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” as well as a telling reference to an obscure 1950s comic book, identified by an anonymous online researcher, Tahoe27, several years back). Running other apparent quotations through Google Books and the Internet Archive, Kobek formed a picture of the killer as a fan of pulp novels, comics, and other nerdy touchstones. Kobek knew a bit about the early years of the sci-fi and fantasy fandoms, how these nascent communities had begun taking shape around an array of obscure self-published zines. On a hunch, he did a quick web search of “fanzines” and “Vallejo.”
That’s how he stumbled on a suspect of his own, one who had somehow escaped attention for five decades.
The second hit for Kobek’s search was a sci-fi zine called Tightbeam. In it, he noticed a letter to the editor by a man named Paul Doerr, who criticized the postal service and suggested citizens fight back by addressing their letters with one-cent stamps. Kobek immediately thought of another piece of correspondence, mailed by the Zodiac to attorney Melvin Belli and postmarked around the same time—a letter sent with six one-cent stamps.
Just a coincidence, nothing to get excited about, he thought. This was precisely the species of random fluke that got Zodiac researchers into trouble. But the letter bore a return address, a Vallejo P.O. box. Although Kobek might indeed hate the internet, he’s highly attuned to its utility. He searched Paul Doerr. He searched the address.
Doerr, it immediately became apparent, had left behind an abundant paper trail—copious letters to the editor, a slew of classified ads, and articles of his own. Kobek spent the next dozen hours glued to his couch, reading Doerr’s oeuvre. Some of the writing had an oddly familiar ring, but Kobek remained skeptical. “I’m like, ‘This is too crazy,’” he says. “‘I don’t want to do this. He’s not Zodiac.’” When he discovered Doerr had published zines of his own, some of which were held by various libraries, he resolved to track them down.
The first one he came across, Hobbitalia, Vol. #1, included a detailed discussion of the Tolkien fandom’s use of the author’s fictional runic language, Cirth, for creating “codes and cyphers.” Published in April of 1970, just when the killer was posting letters with ciphers of his own, it included an example bearing some resemblance to Zodiac’s handiwork. And like Zodiac, Doerr had used an arcane spelling of cipher.
Kobek kept digging. In Hobbitalia, Vol. #2, Doerr expressed enthusiasm for the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group devoted to medieval cosplay—as good an explanation as anyone had yet offered for the “executioner’s hood” Zodiac wore when he attacked two college-age picnickers at Lake Berryasa on September 27, 1969. It turned out a Renaissance Faire was taking place in the same area on that very day.
Another of Doerr’s zines, Pioneer, focused on survivalism. One issue contained instructions for making a bomb with ammonium nitrate and fertilizer, known as the ANFO formula—the same formula, Kobek noted, that Zodiac had outlined in one letter. And perhaps tellingly, both Doerr’s and Zodiac’s instructions contained the same error.
This is where Kobek’s approach to the Zodiac mystery differs from what’s found on most of the fan forums. He knew that rather than simply looking at the suspect, he needed to grasp the historical moment. Today, the sort of arcana contained in Zodiac’s communications is a mere web search away. But in the late ’60s, this was specialized knowledge. “When information is not easily available,” he explains in How to Find Zodiac, “every reference resonates with meaning. The words echo a lifetime of reading and memory.”
In other words, Kobek saw in Zodiac’s particular obsessions and areas of expertise a sort of mental fingerprint that might help identify him.
He next began researching the history of ANFO in a political context. Leftists didn’t adopt the bomb-making technique until 1970, but the Minutemen, a militant right-wing group, had published the formula in a newsletter in the mid-60s. Investigating further, he noted that the organization had advocated sending threatening letters to supposed Communists—letters that featured a gunsight symbol similar to the Zodiac logo. In the Minutemen FBI file, Kobek found a membership list. Paul Doerr’s name was on it.
At this point, the man was becoming a troubling distraction. Kobek had set out to write a cultural study that explored notions like uncertainty, historical revisionism, and self-validating leaps of logic, not to lose himself in rabbit holes of his own making. But each new bit of information, rather than excluding Doerr, as Kobek expected, seemed to deepen the connections. A friend, author Jonathan Lethem, remembers Kobek struggling as the implications of his research began to hit home. “When he kind of bumbles into this suspect, he’s really in denial,” Lethem recalls. “Like, ‘This isn’t good.’ It overtook his project.”
Kobek spent nine days reading every scrap about Paul Doerr he could find. In March, he compiled his findings in a sober 19-page document loaded with caveats. He addressed the dossier to the Major Crimes Division of SFPD and other relevant law enforcement authorities. Then he waited.
It doesn’t surprise him now that the cops never reached out for additional information. More than a year later, Kobek is all too aware that anyone involved with the case is inundated with crackpot tips every day. It’s natural that people would be skeptical. They should be.
But the disinterested response only fueled Kobek’s obsession. Digging up pictures of a fantasy convention Doerr had written about, Kobek spotted a man resembling him based on his yearbook photo, then compared the images to the police sketches of Zodiac. In one of Doerr’s lists of items he hoped to sell, Kobek found a reference to a book, The Strange Ways of Man, that included a line about how headhunters believed their victims would become “their slaves in the after-life,” a phrase echoed in multiple Zodiac letters.
Bits of circumstantial evidence abounded, and perhaps more telling, Kobek could find nothing to rule Doerr out.
Many times, he considered calling Gloria, but he ultimately thought better of it. For one thing, he had seen her criminal history (including felony convictions for drug distribution and possession), evidence of a woman, he imagined, who was woefully unprepared for the chaos his phone call could unleash. Besides, he doesn’t think much of witness testimony. He prefers documents, blurry snapshots, scanned PDFs. Though his research was hardly conclusive, as he was the first to admit, the details were at least reliable, grounded in fact. Why water it down with what was almost certain to be an anxious welter of denial, evasion, and filial devotion?
Meanwhile, reluctant to complicate his original book project with speculation about a new suspect, he decided to split the material into two separate volumes, Motor Spirit, about the misbegotten hunt for Zodiac, and How to Find Zodiac, about Paul Doerr.
Both the books appeared in February to modest sales and virtually no public notice.
* * *
“I don’t want to believe it was him,” Gloria tells me, sitting on the deck of a Vrbo rental in Vallejo. She is tiny, about 5 feet tall. Her voice is contemplative and whispery, her hair gray and untamed, befitting a woman who spent her formative years sneaking into smoky San Francisco clubs to catch Janis Joplin sets and swoon over Jim Morrison. She’s lived an eventful life, full of wild adventures and bad choices, including “four or five” marriages. “I really hope it wasn’t,” she adds, puffing on an American Spirit and gazing out at Southampton Bay.
It’s the evening of July 4, but the holiday spirit is tempered this year by the news of a young man who used the occasion to pick off seven celebrants at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago. If random murder has by now come to seem like one more all-American tradition, it was Zodiac who helped establish it on the same date back in 1969, when he approached Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau as they sat in a car in Blue Rock Springs Park, not ten minutes from our rental house. Shining a flashlight into their eyes, he raised an automatic pistol and began firing without a word. Remarkably, Mageau survived to offer a description. A few weeks later, the killer would dash off the first of his public missives, claiming credit for the Ferrin murder and the killings of two other teenagers the previous winter.
Gloria has now read both the Kobek books about the Zodiac case, and while she’s not yet convinced, she’s impressed with the author’s research. When I suggested a meeting between them she was open to the idea, accepting my offer to spring for a visit to her old stomping grounds. Kobek is set to arrive from L.A. tomorrow for the overdue sit down. The lawsuit is, for now, off the table.
Over the course of several phone interviews with Gloria spanning three months, a highly complex portrait emerges of her father: an eccentric outsider, with a sharp intellect and wide-ranging interests. Though he never graduated high school, he was a lifelong autodidact, spending most of his free time in a reading chair poring over everything from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Rachel Carson to tomes about ancient Egypt and witchcraft.
He was at once a conservationist and a libertarian, a Renaissance Faire regular and a member of a far-right nativist militia. He spent years on Mare Island doing the mind-numbing work of a Naval documents clerk, but he wasn’t exactly shy: In his leisure hours, he seemed equally at home playing D&D with fantasy nerds and swapping firearms with Hells Angels. He openly promoted polygamy (he told Gloria he’d once lectured on the topic at a Mensa meeting) but stuck it out for decades in a loveless marriage. He almost always carried a notebook, compass, penknife, and sometimes a large hunting blade, as well as two loaded pistols, one in each pocket.
Paul encouraged his daughter to be well-rounded. He tutored her in cryptography by devising a weekly puzzle, the answer to which would lead her to the allowance he’d hidden somewhere in the house. “If I didn’t find it, I didn’t eat lunch,” she recalls. He taught her self-defense, enrolling her in karate classes and testing her situational awareness. “Close your eyes and tell me how many people are in this store right now,” he’d say. Among her fondest memories are their father-daughter hunting expeditions, during which Gloria, who couldn’t bear to see an animal killed, cried out, “Daddy, don’t!” whenever Paul zeroed in on a buck or rabbit.
Other recollections are less happy. Gloria can’t recall Paul and her mother, Rose, who maintained separate bedrooms, ever touching one another, or her. Given Paul’s work schedule, the pair crossed paths fleetingly, and then only to disparage one another with spit-flinging volleys of contempt. “She used to call him psychotic and he’d call her frigid,” Gloria recalls. “And she’d say, ‘I did my conjugal duty.’ I remember being a little kid wondering what that meant, thinking, ‘Maybe I’m the conjugal duty?’”
Gloria believes both parents suffered from severe mental illness, in particular paranoid delusions. “There were guns everywhere,” Gloria recalls. “I brought friends over, and it would be, ‘Do not reach behind that cushion.’ You have to understand, my mother was as crazy as my father in her own way. They covered for each other their whole lives.”
Paul’s behavior may stem in part from his service in World War II and later the Korean War, experiences that, in his telling, took on the air of adventure fiction. He described breaking the Japanese codes and then crouching for hours, half submerged in a swamp, tapping out false messages to confound the enemy. He told Gloria he’d once been invited to a party where J. Edgar Hoover, clad in a red sequined dress, greeted him with a kiss on the lips and thanked him for helping the Allies win the war. Doerr sometimes claimed to have been a member of the OSS, forerunner of the CIA—“One of Buffalo Bill’s boys,” as longtime acquaintance David Frohwein put it. Doerr told Frohwein that he’d been in special operations, that he quit the military “because he didn’t particularly like running off into the Vietnamese jungle with no ammunition,” and that he occasionally took on “wet work” (professional contract killings) for extra cash.
He told Gloria he’d once been invited to a party at an estate where wealthy elites had assembled to hunt humans, assuring her he’d bailed out at the last minute. (True or not, the story’s echoes of “The Most Dangerous Game” are yet another telltale whorl in that mental fingerprint).
While such accounts are impossible to verify, they do raise the question of why Doerr spent decades working as a lowly functionary, never rising above a GS-4 classification. One explanation, according to Howard Hitt, who briefly worked in the same department, was that these stories were pure fabrications. (Doerr’s military records indicate no overseas deployments.) Hitt remembers his colleague as “a keep-to-himself kind of person,” though he does recall Doerr once chatting him up. “He started talking about how all those Jews didn’t die in the Holocaust. And he’s going, ‘Oh, they’re all a bunch of whine babies.’” Hitt resolved to keep his distance. “I could see where this was going.”
Though Gloria, in classic hippie style, viewed her father as a “fascist,” she doesn’t recall him expressing antisemitic or racist views. As for his war stories, she considered them credible, if only because they helped explain his behavior. “I believe he had PTSD,” she says. “The night sweats, the way he would just snap, become someone else. I mean I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand up.”
Eventually, she opens up about some of her most traumatic memories, and they are, indeed, horrific. There was, for instance, the time when Paul threw her, then a first grader, up the stairs, leaving her unconscious and drooling blood. (“I ended up at a dentist’s office having all my baby teeth pulled out.”) And the boat trip during which, annoyed at her whining, he tossed her overboard and then dragged her along with a rope as she fought for air. And the time when Gloria came home with a bagful of pears, a gift from a neighbor. After Rose accused her of stealing them, Paul bound her wrists with a rope and suspended her from a tree branch, whipping her savagely with a switch as her feet dangled. Her agonized screams summoned the neighbor, who hurried over and backed up Gloria’s story. “My father never apologized for that,” she says.
* * *
Kobek is wearing mirrored aviators and a leather motorcycle jacket—a little psychic armor, perhaps, for what promises to be an awkward encounter—when he knocks on the door of the Vallejo rental on the afternoon of the second day. There is a bit of small talk as the writer and the suspect’s only child size each other up.
Kobek admits that over the course of his research, he came to appreciate Paul Doerr’s eccentricities. “I actually really, really started to like him,” he says, noting that in some ways Paul reminded him of his dad.
“My father had a very violent side and a very beautiful side,” Gloria says.
I just sit there, a little stunned, quietly watching them swap notes. A lot of details in the book felt familiar, Gloria admits. Yes, Paul used to play The Mikado, the same version—by Groucho Marx—that Zodiac quoted in two letters. And yes, he was in the Minutemen, and hated the postal service, and loved communicating with ciphers. And around the time of the last killing he had begun using henna in his hair, perhaps explaining an eyewitness account that described the killer’s hair as having a reddish tint.
As we look through a pile of family snapshots, Jarett takes particular interest in an undated image of Paul posing with a bow and arrow. He’s dressed in a buckskin costume and wearing a hunting knife on his hip. If you look close enough, Jarett points out, you can see what looks like two rivets in the knife handle, a possible match for the knife wielded in the Lake Berryessa attack.
According to Gloria, 1968, when the Zodiac killings began, was a tumultuous time for the family—the convergence of her adolescence and the blossoming counterculture seeming to activate Paul’s darkest impulses.
As that summer rolled around, Gloria was 16, a rising senior and an A student. Eager to earn some spending money for visits to the city, she found work at a local apricot plant. Undocumented immigrants and underage kids were put on the night shift, so Gloria started popping Benzedrine. Harder drugs soon followed. She made the acquaintance of a young man who offered her a white powder she assumed was cocaine but was in fact heroin. “ I had my little amber bottle and little spoon and I would take a hit now and then,” she recalls. “I was such a dummy back then. The first time I ever did it, I was vomiting, but I went, ‘Wow, I know this feeling. I’m safe.’” The narcotic haze recalled the disassociation that had accompanied her childhood abuse. “I think anybody that has had severe trauma in their life, they recognize, when they get into heroin, you know, that’s that safe place you go.”
Eventually, her supply dried up. By the time the school year rolled around, she was in agony. Paul’s discovery of her drug use prompted yet another of his furious tirades. “His reaction was really violent, but he couldn’t do much because I was so drug-sick,” she remembers.
The episode that sticks with her the most occurred a few months later, as Christmas approached. Gloria returned from a date shortly after curfew, prompting Rose to begin berating her. “She tells him that I’ve been out with the whole football team or something,” Gloria recalls. “I wasn’t even sexually active! So I’m defensive and defiant. And with him, you didn’t talk that way. Normally, he would just look at me, and I would shut up. But that night, I didn’t.”
We’re on the porch, smoking more than any of us wants to. The sun is high and hot, and Jarett has removed his leather jacket and sunglasses. Whatever his sentiments about the superiority of documents and data to the uncertainties of human memory, her story has his rapt attention.
“He ended up just beating the living daylights out of me,” Gloria continues. “He snapped. His eyes are blue, but the eyes that were looking at me were dilated, black. They were black. And at one point, he has me by the throat—and I’m small, right?—my legs aren’t touching the ground. And he’s punching me. And he says, ‘This is how you hit people so there are no bruises.’” Gloria flicks her cigarette at the ashtray. “Blood’s coming out my mouth. My mom’s screaming, ‘Stop, stop!’ But, finally, I was able to just say, ‘Daddy, don’t.’ And he just dropped me on the floor and walked away.”
Gloria believes her father could have killed her that night if she hadn’t found the words—precisely the phrase she used as a young girl during their hunting trips—to bring him out of what seemed to her like a psychotic break. Terrified, Gloria called a favorite teacher, who spirited her out of the house. She moved in with the teacher and never lived at home again, having already won a full scholarship to the state university of her choice (she ended up with a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Cruz).
As Jarett is quick to point out, the timing of the incident seems important. Gloria was only allowed to date on Friday nights, and she remembered this life-changing moment occurring at the beginning of Christmas break. Assuming her memory is accurate more than 50 years later, a quick glance at the 1968 calendar narrows down the date to one possibility: December 20. “You know why that’s interesting?” Kobek asks. It dawns on me slowly, although every halfway decent Zodiac researcher will likely know the answer: It was the night the killer claimed his first victims.
Indeed, the first three attacks took place at teen hangouts, places that, as Paul well knew, Gloria herself frequented, either on dates, as with the makeout spots at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs Park, or when cutting school with friends to swim at Lake Berryessa. Moreover, they were all places, Gloria confirms, where drugs could be procured.
Whether or not Paul Doerr crossed the line from domestic abuser to murderer that night, it’s easy enough to imagine him out looking for her, a tormented parent in search of his unruly daughter.
The theory is reinforced by one of the many Paul Doerr letters-to-the-editor Kobek unearthed. It appeared in the November 1, 1974, issue of the neo-Pagan journal Green Egg. In a previous edition, the publication’s founder, Tim Zell, had described the intentional dosing with LSD of his four-year-old daughter while she was in the care of family friends and asked readers for advice. Doerr’s response contained an aside to Zell, personally offering to “suggest . . . various physical procedures you could carry out.” He elaborated, “It might be better if you don’t print this part of my letter. I was in a vaguely similar situation some years ago, and there are fewer people here because of it now.”
Though Doerr clearly never intended that part of his message for publication, Green Egg had a stated policy of printing every letter in full. To Kobek, the aside sounded an awful lot like a murder confession, carelessly made in a public forum (and postmarked from Vallejo, no less). What’s more, it seemed to echo, albeit “vaguely,” as Doerr puts it, the situation Gloria described: A father terrified of losing his child to the sinister undertow of the counterculture.
Maybe Paul Doerr believed he could scare Gloria straight by punishing other young people he assumed were on the same road to ruin. Maybe he thought he was revealing the wages of sin—every gunshot or knife thrust a warning to a wayward generation, and a punishment.
Ah, but what about the taunting letters? The secret codes? The murdered cabbie?
All an effort, perhaps, to throw the police off his scent. Confusing the enemy. Just like he’d done, or imagined he’d done when he helped beat back the Japanese during World War II and saved the Free World, earning a fairytale kiss on the lips from the nation’s top G-man himself.
* * *
Among the items Paul Doerr, then 80, left behind when he died of a heart attack and cancer in 2007 was a collection of firearms, which he had bequeathed to Gloria in his final days. She didn’t have the heart to tell him she was legally forbidden to keep them, having been convicted of cocaine possession just weeks before. Instead, she brought them to the nearby home of one of Paul’s closest friends, a woman who worked with him in the documents division at Mare Island and is still heartbroken about his death. A sixty-something government clerk, devoted cat lady, self-described “precognitive,” and prizewinning crochet enthusiast, she agrees to speak to me only if she’s identified by the name of her Rennaissance Faire character, the widow Mistress Goodheart.
Unfortunately, laying hands on the firearms proves more difficult than Gloria had anticipated. Mistress Goodheart has long had what she calls “a bit of a hoarding problem,” and it seems to have gotten worse in recent years. The arsenal, which just might contain a Zodiac murder weapon, may be in her garage in Fairfield. Then again, it may not.
In any case, Mistress Goodheart is certain that the man she knew was incapable of murder, “unless it was someone who deserved it.”
She offers a number of points meant to exonerate him, some more persuasive than others. For instance, if Paul Doerr were going to kill a woman, why didn’t he kill Rose, “the one that was causing him so much grief and aggravation?” She suspects that given Paul’s military training, he would never have chosen the .22 caliber pistol, meant for small game, Zodiac used at Lake Herman Road. Rather, she thinks it would have been more his style to use his bow and arrow, for “the challenge.” Finally, she insists, “If Paul had done something like this, on his deathbed, he would have admitted it.”
Some of her memories, however, only implicate Doerr further. For instance, she remembers how his survivalist zines sometimes displayed an undue focus on violence. “He would explain how to make a shoe in one paragraph, and then use three pages to explain how to kill somebody,” she says, laughing. “I told him he was doing it backwards! We needed more shoes.” (Kobek, you can be sure, is on the hunt for that issue.)
As for locating Paul’s old firearms, Mistress Goodheart believes they’re long gone—stolen, she guesses, by a woman who crashed with her years ago after falling on hard times.
Mistress Goodheart isn’t the only one who’s skeptical about Doerr. Tom Voigt is, without question, the most well-known citizen researcher of the case, having founded his website, ZodiacKiller.com, a repository of Zodiac documents and lore, in 1998—“a genius idea,” Kobek writes in Motor Spirit. He dedicated How to Find Zodiac to a slew of researchers who “did the hard work,” giving Voigt top billing. But it’s clear the two men differ widely in their approaches to the case. Voigt admits he’s favored a succession of suspects over the past quarter century, but now believes a journalist named Richard Gaikowski did the killings.
“I’m not really interested in Doerr,” Voigt tells me, with the easy certainty of a Marvel superfan policing the canon. “He’s just one of those weirdos. You know, North America was tilted to the left back then and all the nuts rolled to the West Coast.” Of Kobek’s research, he says, “I didn’t see anything of substance. The bar is pretty high, as far as compelling Zodiac suspects. You have someone like Ted Kaczynski, who is kind of the champion of the handwriting similarities. And then you have the guy with all the coincidences and the incriminating statements, that was Arthur Leigh Allen.”
In particular, Voigt is unimpressed by Doerr’s resemblance to the Zodiac police sketches, which Kobek enhanced by removing the glasses from an illustration and adding a mustache. “You can Photoshop dark-rimmed glasses on Shaquille O’Neal and post it on Reddit, and there’ll be people that give me the shocked emoji, like ‘Oh my god!’” he says.
Book critic Laura Miller expressed similar reservations, writing in Slate that Kobek “digs up some old photographs…[and] pinpoints a man he judges to be Doerr because he’s carrying a camera and has a prominent chin.” She goes on, “He erases the glasses from the Zodiac police sketch, draws on a mustache and voila!—yeah, it looks kind of like the guy in the…photos. What are the odds?” In the end, despite her praise for Kobek’s “fascinating portrait of a certain milieu,” Miller deems the case for Doerr unconvincing and “rife with confirmation bias.” In an example of the hostility towards Kobek and his efforts in some sectors of the Zodiac fandom, the review was immediately posted to Voigt’s forum by Zodiac luminary Dave Oranchak, a member of the trio of researchers who earlier this year solved the Zodiac’s Z340 cipher. “Well, well, well . . . ” Oranchak comments. “If it isn’t our old friend Confirmation Bias. Seems to always come around.”
Of course, none of the detractors yet knew what I subsequently discovered: As Gloria readily confirmed, Paul Doerr did wear glasses on occasion, and he alternately sported facial hair and went clean-shaven throughout his life. And yes, the images Kobek found were in fact her father.
Paul Haynes, a researcher and co-writer of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, about the Golden State Killer, seems certain Kobek has identified the killer at last. “How to Find Zodiacpresents the most convincing, compelling suspect I’ve ever seen,” he says. “Put it this way, the probability of Paul Doerr being Zodiac is higher than any other individual on this planet. There are just so many specific things that overlap. If it’s not him, I would be astonished.”
“I’ve never seen anything more in-depth than this book, and he does bring up some good points,” Richard Grinell of zodiacciphers.com agrees. “If he had released this book 20 years ago, it would have got a lot more attention. The problem you’ve got now is every week there’s a new suspect, and people just go sort of groan, ‘Here we go again.’”
Robert Graysmith seems to fit into that category. When I reach out to the former political cartoonist who wrote what was long considered the definitive book on the subject, he politely “[declines] to take a look.” However, he does suggest I check out Shooting Zodiac, his recent memoir of serving as technical advisor on the David Fincher movie based on his two previous Zodiac books.
* * *
At some point during the visit, as Gloria and Kobek examine a map her father drew for her, noting the similarities with Zodiac’s scribbles, she takes a seat on the bed and lets out a long sigh. A moment passes. “I think you’re right,” she tells him finally, her voice barely audible. “Unfortunately. I hate to say that. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to deny it. But I want the truth, whatever it is.”
There is, as it happens, an easy way to determine once and for all whether Paul Doerr committed those murders. When the Zodiac killed his last victim, taxi driver Paul Stine, he left behind several bloody fingerprints (which, it should be noted, have never been linked to any of the other suspects). Although the San Francisco Police Department did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this story, it should be a simple matter for someone in the cold case division to pull Doerr’s own prints from the Military Service Records Center and do a comparison.
For the thousands of armchair gumshoes who have become so deeply invested in the case over the years, steeping in the Zodiac’s chilling lore, perhaps no solution can finally be as satisfying as the mystery itself.
For Gloria, though, the certainty would come as a relief, even if the evidence points to her father. “In a strange way, it validates me,” she admits. “You know, when people ask you what your life was like, and you just don’t know where to start? This validates it. Because I can’t deny the truth in it. I love my father unconditionally. But…” she pauses, gazing off for a moment and gathering her thoughts, “I do know what he’s capable of.”
IF, THEN, I WERE ASKED for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.
— Leo Tolstoy
NADYA WILLIAMS writes:
These photos explain the connection to the Museum of the Resistance in Oslo and my neighborhood cafe in North Beach in San Francisco.
He sadly died at 28-years-old, and was planning to write a film script about Communist resistance member Asbjørn Sunde (who also fought in Spain). Thomas died in early May, 2009, the same day as Max Manus premiered in Sweden. In August he received a posthumous Amanda Award for his work.
UKRAINE, MONDAY, 26TH SEPTEMBER
by Dasha Litvinova
Putin’s call-up fuels Russians’ anger, protests and violence.
Ukrainians scared by Russia's preordained referendums.
Russian military recruiter shot amid fear of Ukraine call-up.
Lights out, ovens off: Europe preps for winter energy crisis.
Hardship remains for Ukrainian town emerging from occupation
State-run rallies were held in Moscow and other cities celebrating the referendums even before the the conclusion of several days of balloting that has been denounced as pre-ordained, phony and illegitimate by Kyiv and the West.
Angry demonstrations — not just in Moscow and St. Petersburg — but in the remote far north province of Yakutia and in the southern region of Dagestan, with women chasing a police officer and shouting, “No to war!”
A gunman who opened fire in an enlistment office in a Siberian city and gravely wounded the military commandant, saying, “We will all go home now.”
Five days after President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization to call up hundreds of thousands of reservists to fight in Ukraine, the move has triggered outraged protests, a fearful exodus and acts of violence across the vast country.
“Panic. All the people I know are in panic,” said David, a Russian who gave only his first name out of fear of reprisals, in an interview with The Associated Press at a border crossing with Georgia. “We are running from the regime that kills people.”
While the Kremlin had wanted to promote its orchestrated referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine as a joyful event, with those regions expected to join Russia in a move similar to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, it instead is dealing with instability and chaos at home.
In his address on Wednesday announcing the mobilization, Putin said the Kremlin would “support” the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in their push to be incorporated into Russia.
But the mood in Russia has been anything but festive.
Fears are running high that Moscow might close the borders to men of fighting age after the referendums in Ukraine end, prompting long lines of cars at Russia’s frontiers. Telegram chats dedicated to some of these crossings swelled with thousands of new users.
The lines apparently persisted Monday. The online service Yandex Maps showed a 18-kilometer traffic jam on a road in Russia’s region of North Ossetia that leads up to the border with Georgia, and the regional branch of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, deployed an armored vehicle to the crossing.
IN UKRAINE, ANY ACCIDENT COULD TURN A CRISIS INTO A CATASTROPHE
by Patrick Cockburn
On 2 December 1943, 105 German bombers made a surprise air raid on Bari in southern Italy, where they sank 27 Allied cargo and transport ships. One that blew up was an American “liberty ship”, the SS John Harvey, carrying a secret cargo of 2,000 mustard gas bombs intended for retaliation against German forces in the event of them using poison gas against the Allies.
After the destruction of the John Harvey, liquid mustard gas spilled out of the bombs, mixed with the sea water and floating patches of oil in the harbour, and inflicted terrible burns on surviving sailors in the water. Many of those rescued were wrapped in blankets that became impregnated with the liquified mustard that made their injuries worse.
The gas vaporised and mixed with clouds of smoke that drifted over Bari, poisoning soldiers and civilians alike. The presence of chemical weapons on the allied side was a closely held secret, so doctors did not understand what was killing their patients. The American and British political and military leadership at first tried to keep the disaster a secret, with British soldiers killed by the mustard gas being officially described as having died as a result of “burns due to enemy action”.
Pundits assert that Putin is bluffing
The cover-up continued long after the raid, though an excellent book entitled Disaster at Bari by Glenn B Infield was published in 1967. I became interested in the event because an uncle of mine, Major Richard Myles “Teeny” Arbuthnot, who was with the 8th Army, died in Bari at about this time and was buried there in late 1943. I wondered if he might have been an undisclosed victim of mustard gas, but he turned out to have died – reportedly from malarial meningitis – a couple of months before the German raid.
The Bari disaster has modern relevance because it provides pointers about the potential use of weapons of mass destruction in the Ukraine war. A widespread assumption, false to my mind, is that they would be used only as the result of a decision by President Vladimir Putin, making good on his vague threat to use them.
Pundits confidently assert that he is bluffing, since to escalate the conflict to a nuclear level would be against Russian interests and military traditions. It is therefore safe “to call his bluff” on the general schoolyard principle that a bully is always a coward.
As an argument, this goes against Putin’s track record in wartime, which is one of a gambler but not a bluffer, as when he launched his doomed invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. His decision-making is all too demonstrably dangerously ill-judged, but I want to make another point, which is illustrated by what happened at Bari.
Ingredients for a calamity
Real calamities – in war as in peace – occur for multiple causes, some culpable and avoidable and some accidental and unforeseeable. Accidents happen all the time, but particularly in wartime. At Bari, almost nobody knew about the lethal cargo in the harbour on board the John Harvey. Combine this with an inability to unload the ship in the congested harbour and a gross underestimate of German air power and one has the ingredients for a calamity.
On the day that the raid took place, hubris was riding particularly high, with the Allied air commander, Sir Arthur Coningham, telling a press conference that the Germans were defeated in the air and he would “consider it a personal insult if the enemy should send so much as a single plane over the city [Bari]”.
Mocking this overconfidence is easy enough, but over the past half-century few military conflicts have gone as was confidently expected by the protagonists. The few successes were usually small in scale and in confined geographical areas, such as the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the Falklands War in 1982 and the Russian invasion of Chechnya in 1999.
Most invasions that I have reported on have been spectacular failures from the point of view of the invader, from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Foreign interventions using air power and local proxy forces, as in Afghanistan in 2001 and Libya in 2011, produced ruin for the Afghans and Libyans and frustration for the intervening powers.
It is conventional wisdom to say that dictators like Putin and Saddam Hussein are particularly prone to an exaggerated idea of their own strength and of the weakness of their enemies. This is true enough of Putin in Ukraine, as it was for Saddam Hussein’s invasions of Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. But George W Bush and Tony Blair were equally hubristic in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003.
Georges Clemenceau, the French prime minister during the First World War, famously said that “war is too important to be left to the generals”, but politicians tend to be just as bad.
Belittling the enemy
The politics of war are very different from the politics of peace: politicians deal in words which unravel on the battlefield. Most are too prone to believe their own propaganda, lauding their own side while belittling the enemy. Wars have too many moving parts to take on board, so even a leader as intelligent as Blair never seems to have understood much about the multiple conflicts in Iraq. Going by his memoirs, David Cameron never made any effort to learn about Libya.
The media is equally at fault, liking wars because they provide news and drama, but it is not very good at understanding them because it dilutes complex reality. It divides the protagonists into white hats and black hats, over-praising one and demonising the other.
Systematic bias and wishful thinking cumulatively produce a distorted picture which may wholly differ from reality. In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, the US and Britain thought that they had won wars which were only just beginning.
Overconfidence and crass error
The same certitude is in full flower in our perceptions of the war in Ukraine. When Ukrainian men of military age are prevented from leaving the country, it is taken as an encouraging sign of military determination. When potential Russian conscripts try to leave the country, it is portrayed as a sure sign of collapsing morale and opposition to an unpopular war. This interpretation may well be correct, but there is no certainty about it.
Wars are usually reported as if those waging them are in control, but more often conflicts develop their own momentum. Putin appears not to have known what to do since the first days of the war, when his expected walkover failed to materialise. Late in the day, he is mobilising and desperately looking for policy options that are by now very limited in number.
One of them is to use weapons of mass destruction, which is certainly sabre-rattling at this stage, but his threat retains credibility only if the sabre is finally produced and looks as if it might be used. As in Bari so many years ago, overconfidence and crass error can easily combine to produce a catastrophe.
ON PUTIN’S WAR: TALKING WITH A “TANKIE”
By Steve Heilig
(All dialogue based on real interaction).
Me: Hi friend. Nice to see you. So, as predicted and feared, Putin invaded the Ukraine, even though you and your fellow travelers said that was all USA hype. And half a year later it’s a huge disaster in every way, as also predicted. It could even take Putin down at last, in addition to all the senseless suffering he’s caused. But you, a so-called leftist socialist type, support it. What gives?
Tankie: It’s all the USA’s fault. And NATO.
Q: You mean Putin bears no responsibility for his illegal invasion, war crimes, bombing civilians, hospitals, schools, all that?
A: The USA is bad, imperialist, militaristic. But why are you calling me Tankie?
Q: Oh right, sorry. It’s a new term to me, I had to look it up when a young Democratic Socialist friend told me about it and how embarrassed he is by your type. The Urban Dictionary: “A tankie is a hardline Stalinist communist who believes fully in the political system of the Soviet Union and defends the actions of the Soviet Union and other accredited states (China, Serbia, etc.) to the hilt, even in cases where other communists criticize their policies or actions. For instance, such a person favours overseas interventions by Soviet-style states, defends these regimes when they engage in human rights violations … tankies also supported "sending the tanks in" in cases such as Czechoslovakia 1968, Afghanistan 1979, Bosnia and Kosovo, and so on, whereas the rest of the communist movement has gravitated towards anti-militarism)…”. I read all that and immediately thought yes, that’s you.
A: That means you don’t know anything.
Q: Why? You’ve even voiced support for Assad in Syria, Ghaddafi in Libya, and the like. These are butchers and dictators in the extreme. You’re an ultra-tankie.
A: America has invaded all over the world.
Q: Can’t argue with you there. Russia meddles globally too. But for you that makes Putin’s actions justified?
A: Ukraine is full of Nazis. Putin’s just denazifying it.
Q: Oh boy. Even Putin has backed off on that transparent nonsense now. I think it’s true there are some bad actors there. But nobody was begging Putin to come in and save them, Ukraine’s President is a Jew and many Jewish Ukrainian Jews have been forced out, and the whole “denazification” thing is widely known as a sham - other than in Russia where free press is repressed and state propaganda reigns supreme, of course. Plus, should we destroy whole nations to get rid of a relative few? There are Nazis in Idaho - should we invade there? Remember Vietnam - “bomb them into the Stone Age” to save them from commies? What’s the difference now?
A: NATO caused all this by expanding throughout Europe.
Q: How much time have you spent in Russia, if any? How many actual Russian people do you know?
A: The USA is imperialist.
Q: Yes, yes, I know. That’s really all you’ve got it seems. As if Putin isn’t. I accused you of “whattaboutism” and you actually seemed to take it as a compliment. But you’d be booted out of any decent class in logic, politics, or the like. As would your “sources.” It seems all you do is spread Russian propaganda from fellow tankies who have never really done anything but that. And now you are in fact supporting imperialist warmongering.
A: Bull. Here’s ninety links you have to read to understand this situation.
Q: That’s your other reflexive reaction - bury people in more rhetoric by those who think like you, parroting Putin but with no real experience. I’ve read too much of it already, it’s all the same. And most of it comes via Russian state media, which is all that’s allowed there now, or self-appointed experts with zero relevant experience. I don’t even believe you read much of it. The irony is, I’m with you on so much of the bad history of American foreign policy, militarism, hypocrisy, etc. But I - and most any humane thinking human - draws the line at bombing children, raping women, destroying hospitals and schools, and so on. You excuse it all if it’s on your “side,“ just like any imperialist. It’s pure hypocrisy.
A: The CIA has engineered bad stuff in many places.
Q: True. And Putin was KGB, which might as well be Gestapo. Russia has horrible records and ratings on human rights of all kinds, and the worst rating on media freedom, from all the veteran human rights organizations. Reporters who don’t tow the Kremlin line get murdered or disappeared. Opponents get mysteriously poisoned or more recently, “fall” out of buildings. Solzhenitsyn’s gulag archipelago still exists. Meanwhile an utterly corrupt class of Russian elites become billionaires as so many in the “workers’ paradise” toil in poverty. Putin himself is likely one of the richest of all.
A: We have “oligarchs” too, we just don’t call them that.
Q: Agreed. But most of them don’t pretend to be anything else, they’re proud capitalists. Wasn’t Russia supposed to be different, better, more equitable, all that? That’s all gone, and they are one of the most corrupt, repressive, and even militaristic nations of all. Even though it looks like they might not be so good at that last one after all.
A: You’re just saying “Russia Russia Russia”, but even Mueller couldn’t pin all that stuff on Trump.
Q: Er, actually, Mueller's report and many more after have shown mass Russian meddling here, but right, Trump was likely not directly in on it - unlike many of his cronies and lackeys who were. I mean, what smart meddler would tell Trump about anything, really? But doesn’t it give you pause, as a leftist, even radical, to be aligned with the likes of Trump - who called Putin a genius - and Tucker Carlson, et al? And that the supporters of Putin’s war are down to North Korea, Iran, now Berlesconi in Italy, and very few others, all right-wing authoritarians?
A: That’s just anti-Russia propaganda.
Q: No, now even China and India are voicing opposition to Putin’s invasion. So have progressive icons like Noam Chomsky, for crissake. The International Socialist Alternative, for one such group, demands Putin’s withdrawal from the Ukraine. Inside Russia, ever more officials, public figures, and protesters in the streets are bravely opposing the war - brave, as ever more of them mysteriously die. Now there’s a mass military draft there - do you support that, or would you here?
A: Russians support the Special Operation.
Q: Ahem. That’s what Putin called his attack on Georgia too, and his support for Syrian atrocities- Assad, trained as a doctor, called them “operations, where you unavoidably spill some blood.” And inside Russia few have dared speak out honestly - it’s a mass surveillance state, and who would be honest in fake pollsters calling? On the other hand, Zelensky won his office with 70% of the popular vote but you and Putin want him out. Honestly I think that if this were the Spanish Civil War you’d be siding with Franco’s fascists. And all based on archaic twisted Marxist ideology, like old farts arguing over Das Kapital in some cafe. But you’d never put yourself in harm’s way. Such cowardly “revolutionaries” you Tankies are.
A: You’re just arrogant.
Q: Me? Unlike you, I don’t pretend to know what I don’t. Even though I’ve been to Russia, where people begged us to get them out, and have read the objective reports and books by those with real backgrounds and direct expertise, I don’t pretend to be an expert myself - unlike your ideologues, astrologers, armchair commentators, and downright creeps, including convicted pedophiles. I just hate war, especially under utterly false pretense. Putin wants the Ukraine’s land, more subjects, and natural resources, like gas - follow the money. Read “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West” by Catherine Belton (2020). The Guardian review summarizes it: “The revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine of 2004-5 fed Putin’s “dark paranoia” that the Kremlin was threatened by a western plot to topple his regime. The Kremlin has subsequently revelled in escalating conflicts with the western powers as a marker of Russia’s newly regained stature on the world stage. At home, a slavish media celebrates Russian military exploits in Ukraine and Syria, while abroad, the Kremlin’s media networks spew a stream of innuendo and obfuscation that creates mistrust in western governments and institutions.”
A: She’s a stooge, a transcriber for the US State Department.
Q: No, again, the only media allowed in Russia now is purely State-controlled. But you’re fine with that, and spread it. Read a piece called “The anti-imperialism of idiots” by Leila Al-Shami. It nails your fringe: “This left exhibits deeply authoritarian tendencies, one that places states themselves at the centre of political analysis. Solidarity is therefore extended to states (seen as the main actor in a struggle for liberation) rather than oppressed or underprivileged groups in any given society, no matter that state’s tyranny…This pro-fascist left seems blind to any form of imperialism that is non-western in origin… I will never see people who place grand narratives over lived realities, who support brutal regimes in far off countries, or who peddle racism, conspiracy theories and atrocity denial, as allies.”
A: She’s a stooge, a transcriber for th-
Q: Please, somebody get me a strong drink. Who can argue with cultists? I give up.
A: See? I win.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
As the supply chain and energy distribution network continues to crumble, those living without anything put away may find themselves in a precarious situation.
See, I have family in Italy and those progressive socialists thought it odd that I left a glamorous city and home at the beach for a forgotten-about rural area. They didn’t seem impressed by my garden, wood stove, solar rig and water harvesting. They thought it a silly waste of time by a misguided prepper. After all, how can I attend all the pride parades living out in the woods as I do?
Guess what? Now their electric bills are more than they earn. Now they sit in the dark and use just enough energy to charge up their phones. It won't get cold enough for them to freeze but it certainly will be an uncomfortable dark Winter.
I know that what is happening to friends and family in Europe will soon be happening here and I think the majority of our young people would gladly march into a camp if they were told that there were cell phone charging stations there.
I’m convinced of it.
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS
by James Kunstler
That “singularity” so many blab about is not what they think it is: the merging of human intelligence with Bill Gates’s Office products, leading to an orgasmic nirvana of infinite memoranda from your HR department concerning new diversity, inclusion, and equity policy. Rather, I speak of the magic moment when the necromancers of finance discover that the proverbial can they’ve been kicking is filled with Schrödinger’s cat food… and the road they’ve been kicking it down actually comes to a dead end up their own highly-credentialed wazoos. Economics will never be the same hereafter.
The bond market has gone south, and that spells The End for the great game of financialization. The bond market is Moby Dick compared to the little blowfish that is the stock market. The global money system is based on bonds, which are… what? That’s right: loans… promises to pay you X at some future moment. So, what happens when a daisy-chain of promises-to-pay gets broken? Or, perhaps more precisely, when all those promises lose their last shred of plausible reality? Why, the money that these broken promises are denominated in loses its essential cred. Trick question: how much is worthless money worth? (Answer: not enough to pay for a can of Schrödinger’s cat food.)
Which is where all this folderol leaves a lot of ordinary people all over Western Civ (and beyond!) trying to scratch up enough increasingly worthless money to feed the family and pay the landlord. Many will never understand what happened. But they will not be any less pissed off at the result.
This is the way the world ends for the hapless phantom known as “Joe Biden” the child-sniffing ectoplasm that haunts the White House these days of late empire. Somehow, the bamboozled nation has so far passively accepted the pranks and punishments laid on them by the backstage managers behind the Figment-in-Chief. Eight-plus percent inflation? No problemo, right? Eighty-five thousand new IRS agents on-board to drive you batshit while destroying your household and your posterity (ha!)? Half the population of South America flooding across the border? (The vibrancy! You no like?) A hundred dollar fill-up at the gas pump, and no heat for you this winter? (But… Netflix!) Drag queens to amuse and edify your children about the delirious realm of sexual pathology. All that…and how about a Russian hypersonic nuclear missile up your ass if the preceding somehow failed to move you? (Because: Russia, Russia, Russia…!)
Meanwhile, a trend is manifesting in other lands. The people of, first, Sweden and now Italy are voting in “right wing” nationalist governments — the horror — sending their equivalent of our Party of Chaos to the showers. This has irked the President of the European Union, one Ursula von der Leyen, no end. She has threatened to send Italy to its room without supper for the effrontry. Of course, Madame von der Leyen’s fellow Germans have already been sent to their room without so much as a kartoffelklop, plus no heat or hot showers for you, Hansel and Gretel. Embrace the suck.
You may be sure that we’re in for the business here in America, too. The thermometers are trending down and Halloween won’t be so much fun when the little goblins come home to a house that’s the same temperature inside as the night air outside. Little Skippy’s face is turning blue, and not because he went trick-or-treating as Robert the Bruce.
The aforementioned Party of Chaos, the gang that queered the last big election, is surely gearing up to run a whole lot of work-arounds for massaging the November 8 midterm vote in their direction. Nothing is beyond them. One of their avatars, the podcaster Sam Harris, said it out loud a month ago: that lying and cheating is perfectly ethical in service to the Left’s being able to continue imposing its will upon all of us. Whoops! He let Schrödinger’s cat out of its hypothetical sack. The punishments must continue until morale improves! (Hope you enjoyed your career Sam.)
And so it begins… as they intone in the horror movies when the contents of the family’s raised ranch, chattels, children, mom, dad, the golden retriever all get sucked out of the universe via some quantum portal in the television. Today the markets, tomorrow our beloved country will be overrun by what’ll look like an alien invasion of repo men. This is the way the world ends… not with a bang… but with a physics lesson: the lonesome sound of Schrödinger’s cat’s meow.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
SALLY SCHMITT'S DOC, A MUST SEE